November 21, 2014

special announcement



Eataly: 200 5th Avenue, New York, NY
Analog-A-Go-Go NYC 2014 Event Page

We're always excited to get together with our friends from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery for some great music and beer, and after trekking to their Delaware brewery for the last few years for the always awesome Analog-A-Go-Go vinyl market, beer and craft festival, we convinced them to take it on the road and set up shop in New York! On Sunday, December 14, we are hosting a very special party with Dogfish Head and Eataly, featuring rare beers, great food, some amazing handpicked craft vendors, and records! Other Music will be curating a selection of our favorite LPs of the year, as well as a ton of other vinyl goodies. We'll also be DJing some of the best music of 2014, and we invited Steve Gunn to perform too! All the details are listed here and tickets are limited and on sale now. (The 2 to 5 p.m. session is now sold out but there are still a handful of tickets available for the second session from 6 to 9 p.m.) We hope you will join us for this premiere edition of Analog-A-Go-Go NYC!

in this week's update


Andy Stott
Ariel Pink
Jane Weaver
Nathan Bowles
Jesse Boykins III
TV on the Radio
Robert Wyatt
Philip Johnson
Lee Bannon
Russell Ellington Langston Butler
Next Life (Various)
Steve Arrington
Chris Bell
Omar Khorshid


Black Fire! New Spirits! (Various)
New Orleans Soul (Various)
Wilco (Rarities CD Box & Best Of CD )
Wire Issue #370


Claude Lombard
Michael Pisaro


Bruce Langhorne (Hired Hand OST LP) 


Patrick Cowley & Jorge Socarras




Hammerstein Ballroom: 311 W. 34th St. New York, NY

This Tuesday, Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas returns to his old hometown with his new band the Voidz in tow, headlining this excellent and very diverse bill which also includes Shabazz Palaces and a just-announced special guest, Blood Orange! Other Music is giving away a pair of tickets to this great trifecta of music -- email for your chance to win!



Bowery Ballroom: 6 Delancey St. New York, NY

Earlier this year, Blonde Redhead released their ninth album, Barragán, and now these great longstanding art-rockers will be closing out 2014 with a trio of dates in the city, Tuesday, November 25 and Wednesday, November 26 at the Bowery Ballroom, and Tuesday, December 2 at Music Hall of Williamsburg. We've got a pair of tickets to the first night (11/25, with People Get Ready) up for grabs and to enter for your chance to win, email



ISSUE Project Room: 22 Boerum Place, Brooklyn

New York avant-rock icons Kim Gordon and Loren Connors band together for a special first-time duo performance on Wednesday, December 3 at ISSUE Project Room, with electro-rocker Gary War opening! Other Music has a pair of tickets to give to one of our lucky Update subscribers, so for your chance to win, email



Town Hall: 123 W. 43rd St. New York, NY

While Yo La Tengo's annual run of Hanukkah shows at Maxwell's every December is now just a wonderful memory, Georgia, Ira and James will be performing two dates next month at New York City's historic Town Hall. Antietam joins the bill on Wednesday, December 3, and the Feelies open the following night, and we've got a pair of tickets to give away to each performance! Email for your chance to win one of the pair.

this week's update

Faith in Strangers
(Modern Love)

British producer Andy Stott has become one of electronic music's most highly regarded and feverishly followed creative figures in recent years. His last three albums (Passed Me By, We Stay Together and Luxury Problems) served as a trilogy of reinvention, submerging his pleasing dub techno into tar pits of blown-out distortion, creeping molasses tempos, and gnarled ambiance. What has made Stott stand out is his deft balance of brute force and sensual texture; his records are HEAVY, but they're also deeply kinetic, almost erotic at times, infused with a primality of both the savage and mathematical senses.

Stott's new full-length, Faith in Strangers, is another remarkable surprise in that it ably manages to elevate and beef up both facets of his cosmopolitan dystopia. The album features a more pronounced pop lyrical presence (once again provided by Alison Skidmore, who was the ghostly voice of Luxury Problems), yet is also even more ragged and deconstructed than Luxury's sludge-house. Stott has stated that Faith's arrangements were largely constructed via physical hardware and hands-on equipment rather than computer software, and there's a definite tactile griminess running throughout; while there's a soulful heart to each piece, sonically and aesthetically these tracks are coming from more of a proper industrial and even post-punk corner of the world.

Tempos jitter, twitch, and crawl schizophrenically, employing flutters of IDM abstraction whilst remaining anchored to the vocals; in fact, the two weakest tracks on the LP are the two mid-album instrumentals that sound more like outtakes from the Millie & Andrea record and feel unfinished in comparison to the vocal cuts. The producer seems to be searching for beauty in urbanity's ugliest crevices, with each arrangement spurting oil and sparks, creaking under its own body weight, with Skidmore cooing and whispering like a scrapyard siren beckoning lost souls into blackened depths with neon flickers. Faith in Strangers certainly isn't going to be to everyone's liking, but similar to Stott's other recent works, it stands out as a truly unique and singular presence that has become oft imitated yet never duplicated. I personally consider it to be one of 2014's standout albums, sitting firmly amongst my list of the year's best releases. [IQ]

$17.99 CD ON SALE
$25.99 2LP

Pom Pom

After a calculated publicity campaign that included insulting Madonna, calling label mate Grimes "stupid and retarded," and being "maced by a feminist," Ariel Pink releases pom pom, the artist's supposed magnum opus. And while there are plenty of reasons to hate the guy -- I mean, that was the point of the daily Internet blow-ups, right? -- damn, if this record is not a thrill! Post-modern, retro, slickly pop while aggressively avant-garde, pom pom thrives on its contradictions, and succeeds on its bravado and attitude, but moreover its great songs. Pink enlisted help from legendary LA producers as varied as Kim Fowley (the Runaways, Paul Revere & the Raiders) and Justin Raisen (Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX), and additional guests like Germs drummer Don Bolles and Spacemen 3/Spiritualized's Jason Pierce, but he clearly called the shots, creating a hook-filled mix of meticulous '80s synth-pop, Zappa-esque insanity, swingin' '60s sass, and much more. The album is a whopping 70-minutes, with 17 tracks whose only common trait is their bizarre, sickly-sweet eeriness --- it's a candy shop soundtrack; no, it's a killer clown's theme song. I could employ endless locales to try and pinpoint where one might hear songs from pom pom, but its overarching irony is that despite how bizarrely diverse its sounds are, it is extremely cohesive in its ability to create art rock à la Animal Collective that always maintains both schizophrenia and catchiness. "Put Your Number in My Phone" and "Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade" are two of the poppiest, but while the former is an earnest and emotional track that finds Pink both pursuing and shunning real connection, the latter is a truly frightening Benny Hill homage whose title pretty much says it all.

Then there are the more punk-infused cuts like "Goth Bomb" and "White Freckles," and those reminiscent of '60s girl groups like "Dayzed in Daydreams." The tracks that supersede the rest, however, are the ones that cannot be categorized to any genre or movement. What the hell is "Jell-o"? And more importantly, why is it so enticing if it sounds like a bad commercial that would give any child nightmares? "Nude Beach A Go-Go" is equally weird. The basis for collaboration with the equally theatrical Azealia Banks, the song invokes mid-century surf rock in the least comforting manner. Pink and his many characters' lyrics make the album, when you can understand what they're saying, and it's the little production flourishes throughout that make these songs near-irresistible. There are skits about prostitution, comments about the dangers of white bread, and everything in between, literally. Only from Ariel Pink could an album this disturbingly peculiar be so listenable. Sure, he's an asshole, but if you can take his music as a separate entity -- just in the context of pom pom and nothing else -- Pink is brilliant, and this may well indeed be his magnum opus. [MM]

$13.99 CD
$21.99 2LP

The Silver Globe

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jane Weaver got her start in the Manchester rock scene in the early 1990s, and has explored a number of variations on psychedelic pop styles over the course of her career, including her activities curating and running the Bird and Finders Keepers imprints with partner Andy Votel. While her last few solo albums saw her exploring more folk-influenced subtleties, her stunning new effort, The Silver Globe, moves into a driving, more hard-hitting territory heretofore unexplored by Weaver at large. The sound suits her well, as her vocals fly high atop motorik Apache Krautrock grooves, shimmering synthesized space-rock textures, and nimble percolations of drum machine folk balladry. The album's foundations are built upon strong rhythmic bases, while the arrangements display an eclectic diversity that remains in the psychedelic canon whilst journeying along roads that fuse past and future aesthetics quite ably. It helps that Weaver's voice has never sounded better, coming off confident but coy, mysterious yet majestic. This is easily her most ambitious release to date, and it's a stunning triumph, filled with dense yet distinct arrangements, inspired combinations of instrumentation, and most importantly, wonderful songs.

One of the pitfalls of many a psychedelic release is the failure to ground the mind-altering experiments with strong, memorable melodies. Weaver squashes that dilemma with a heavy, stylish boot, and brings in a number of talented guests -- Suzanne Ciani, David Holmes, Damon Gough, Andy Votel, Aussie psych vets Cybotron, and even Hawkwind! -- who enhance but never overshadow Weaver's unshakable talents throughout. This is easily one of the best albums I've heard this year, and one of the strongest, most memorable modern psychedelic records released in recent memory. Fans of everything from Broadcast, Cate Le Bon, and the Soundcarriers to vintage classics like Linda Perhacs, the White Noise, and Edda Dell'orso's Giallo horror work with Ennio Morricone absolutely NEED to check The Silver Globe out. It's the sort of album that grabs you right away with its melodic hooks, yet pulls you in even deeper with each detailed listen. This is a noteworthy record that deserves your undivided attention. [IQ]

$17.99 CD
$25.99 LP

(Paradise of Bachelors)

From the electrifying opening twang of guitar to the somber final lilting refrain, multi-instrumentalist Nathan Bowles' latest effort, Nansemond, is truly a revelation. It's a supremely visceral, fried slice of backwoods Americana, with a primitive approach and a fidelity that plays like a lost broadcast from the time of 78s. Granted, Virginia native Bowles is no stranger to the genre -- as is evident in his excellent work with rustic revivalists Black Twig Pickers and the legendary modern psych-folk cabal Pelt -- and Nansemond is a beautifully conceptualized and varied "American" album. And dare I say genre defying? For example, "Sleepy Lake Bike Club" is a laid-back slide guitar workout with slippery countrified licks and a raw fidelity, while second track "The Smoke Swallower" is a beautifully mangled mess of tape collage, smoky electric guitar, and reverb that approximates some level of modern psychedelia akin to Blues Control or Charalambides. "Chuckatuck" is another solid tune with ecstatic fingerpicked banjo tumbling into a Celtic-inflected halftime folk swing. Nansemond is a great album to sit with for the coming winter months, and an updated vision of traditional American song form without the pastiche. Highly, highly recommended. [RN]

$13.99 CD
$18.99 LP+MP3

Love Apparatus

The singer/producer relationship between Jesse Boykins III and Travis Stewart (Machinedrum) began on Stewart's 2011 album, Want to 1 2?, and reflects a very Brooklyn type of soul fusion. In a way, that record foresaw the marriage of alternative R&B vocalists and underground electronic producers which has since become commonplace. Though this is Boykins' official debut LP, he has been around for a while, having self-released a bunch of music and appearing as a noteworthy guest vocalist on albums by Foreign Exchange, Tokimonsta, the Internet, and Theophilus London. Following a duo release with Melo-X for Ninja Tune, Love Apparatus finds Boykins and Stewart creating a warm, soft, and slow-moving journey in love-soaked modern R&B, with a classic feel.

Like Sampha, Bilal, or Spacek, Boykins enjoys cooing and soothing his listeners, his vocals hovering in the air like incense, light and floating, filled with the potent fragrance of seduction. Boykin's voice feels like a natural fit for Stewart's jazz-influenced and glitch-enhanced productions. Ditching his own often-frenzied footwork inspired productions, here Stewart lets things open up, slowing his usual speedy tempo, yet still maintaining his tasteful palette of colorful sounds, creating backings that range from slow house to bubbling IDM, dubby and percolating ambience. Boykins comes from a jazz and art background, often bringing a poetic vibe to his lyrics, relying more on the implied, suggested, and metaphoric than the blatant and graphic nature of many of his contemporaries. Fans of Solange's Saint Heron compilation, the new era of mid-tempo electronic soul (Miguel, Jeremih, Kelela, FKA Twigs), or those looking for an update of the classic stylings of Marvin Gaye or D'Angelo will love this. A no-nonsense, quite listenable, refreshing, and enjoyable slice of modern R&B from a top-notch producer and a talented and thoughtful vocalist. [DG]

$12.99 CD
$22.99 2LP


Opening with a well-placed digital bang shrouded in synthetic rainfall, Objekt a/k/a TJ Hertz's Flatland sets the appropriate tone and pace from the start. This is not so much a restrained, minimal techno statement, as we would expect from this Berlin-based British producer, but a dark, wickedly inventive musical undertaking. Appropriating the ever forward-looking drive of techno to produce an album that absorbs IDM, electro, dubstep, as well as house and hip-hop elements, Flatland reimagines dance music for 2014. Deeply immersed in the electronic underground, Objekt's unique synthesis of UK bass music and German engineering skills sounds like nothing else out there at the moment.

On paper, this record could have failed immensely: too dance-oriented for the experimental tendencies of the usual PAN-aficionados, its playful reimagining of IDM aesthetics comes at a time when its spiritual grandfather Aphex Twin has made a glorious return. But whereas the latter's Syro reestablishes the future by absorbing 1980s dance sensibilities into his signature grand synthesis, Hertz's approach is more clinical in nature. Slicing open the operative functions of dance music and examining its inner workings, he reintroduces these foundations through a foremost speculative framework. Flatland's convincing success lies in its intricate amount of detail, the sense of murky joy that breathes underneath its synaptic nerves, and the genuine motivation to engage with musical deconstruction while always keeping its moves geared towards the dancefloor. This is a territory where lesser talents would inevitably fail, but the record's impeccable structure, which benefits from returning motifs and echoes in the aural spectrum, proposes a substitute for the exhaustion of dance music. What an impressive, kinetic debut! [NVT]

$17.99 CD
$29.99 2LP


18+ are a mysterious American duo who gathered attention via a series of raw download mixtapes that took contempo R&B/pop templates and reconfigured them with pieces missing, sounding nearly but not quite normal, offbeat but enjoyable. Stark, clapping beats, buzzing, gaseous synth textures, and a narcotic sluggishness form the foundations of these tracks, which are definitely in tune with the aesthetics of urban pop both vintage and modern. Their debut album, Trust, sees release on the Houndstooth label, and features newly remixed/mastered songs from those mixtapes sequenced into a strong but still enigmatic statement. Their stripped-down synthetic pop and stark clatter, boom and bounce will find much appeal to fans of Hype Williams, who always flirted with pop forms but seemed to shy away or drastically vandalize the structures too much for a true and proper payoff. That same cool, icy detachment is heard here in both Boy and Sis' vocals, but with a stronger melodic sensibility woven into the tracks.

At various points throughout the album's runtime, I'm reminded of everything from Cassie (whose classic R&B banger "Me & U" seems to be interpolated on Trust highlight "Crow"), Nite Jewel, Tricky, the Weeknd, and both Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland's recent respective solo releases. If you strip the performance-art pretension away from these songs (the duo's interviews aren't particularly engaging, I'll say that much), there's still a lot to enjoy, and while it's a strong debut, I'm curious to hear what the duo has up their sleeves next -- I loved those mixtapes, but I'm hungry for some new tunes. This is a satisfying and promising teaser for things to come, so let's hope that the duo manages to keep momentum going and deliver the goods! Until then, enjoy Trust; it's one of the better Rhythm & Blog albums I've heard this year. [IQ]

$15.99 CD


Their first new album recorded since the devastating passing of bandmate Gerard Smith who lost his battle with lung cancer just days after the release of 2011's Nine Types of Light, TV on the Radio return with a renewed vigor. No one could have blamed them if Seeds had found the group retreating into a darkened corner of producer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Sitek's LA studio, hidden from any direct sunlight for them to stare into. Instead, TVOTR have streamlined the dense, expansive sounds of their last few albums into a more listener friendly version of the band, but without dumbing down the content for old fans to toss "sell-out" accusations. Opener "Quartz" shines the buzzing sci-fi soul of early releases like the 2003 Young Liars EP and their 2004 album debut, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, through a sonic prism in which every pulsing synthesizer, handclap and drum beat are distinct colors of a rainbow shimmering across thick layers of Tunde Adebimpe, Kyp Malone and Jaleel Bunton's post-modern doo-wop-inspired harmonies. Tracks like "Careful You" borrow a page from Trent Reznor's industrial-pop playbook, yet here the robotic throb-and-chug doesn't blow up into a teenaged mosh pit-inducing climax, but rather it provides an understated rhythmic course for Adebimpe's expressive baritone that remains so convincing in his restraint. (If only Bono could have done the same during U2's early-'90s flirtation with electronic pop.)

Always soulful, anthemic and soaring while touching all things political -- more of the heart and mind kind of politics than worldview here -- the most noticeable change is in just how easy Seeds is on the ears. Adebimpe and Malone's vocals are placed higher in the mix than ever, and Sitek even enlisted outside assistance from Swedish singer/songwriter Erik Hassle and Flo-Rida cohort Marcus Killian, among a few others, to help bring these tunes into full fruition. The thing is, while there is no mistaking Seeds as TV on the Radio's catchiest album to date, it doesn't come across as a band trying to make some serious star moves. (The fact that Paul "Pee-wee Herman" Reubens takes the lead role as a racecar driver in the video for first single "Happy Idiot" is a hint that they're trying to shake off a few years of hell with a little bit of fun.) From the dance-grooved, Malone-sung "Right Now" to the full-throttle rock of "Lazerray," TVOTR maintain that rare balance between pop and art form throughout Seeds' myriad styles and moods. While there are no real surprises here, that a band can continue to sound so fresh, inspired and empowering after a decade-plus career is a testament to the triumphs, love and loss that have brought them this far. [GH]

$12.99 CD
$25.99 2LP+MP3

First Demo

Although in the heady pre-Internet days of regional underground music, things moved at a radically different pace for new groups than we are used to now, it was clear to anyone who knew much of anything that Fugazi were an important band even before they heard a note. Though still in their early 20s, frontmen Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto had each already led hugely influential groups that have had a widespread and lasting impact on modern music -- MacKaye with Minor Threat, Picciotto with Rites of Spring. Fugazi formed as a trio in 1987, with MacKaye on guitar and vocals, Brendan Canty on drums and Joe Lally on bass. After a handful of shows Picciotto was brought on as a second vocalist, and eventually guitarist, and after a few more shows the quartet headed out to famous scene studio Inner Ear to record their first batch of demos, mostly just to hear for themselves what the band sounded like.

With Don Zientra on the boards, the sound quality of this stuff is impeccable. If you have been wading through the 1000-plus live archive of every show Fugazi ever played (this release marks the completion of that comprehensive project), don't worry that First Demos is some boombox recording from their practice space; it's a warts-and-all set that leaves in bits of banter and studio experiments, but the recordings are mostly album-quality in terms of sound. And in terms of performance, while this is a fans-only release, it's a pretty great one for anyone who loves this group. Featuring the original versions of many classic Fugazi tracks that would turn up on their first four official releases, this is really compelling stuff. "Waiting Room," Mechandise," "Song #1," "Badmouth" -- these are raw and immediate takes that somehow demonstrate not only the band's innate charisma and songwriting, but provide a bit of a reveal on their alchemy of blending hardcore, dub reggae and post-punk into something entirely new. If you have been collecting the bootlegs, except for "Turn Off Your Guns," everything here has been available previously, but damn these remastered versions sound good! [JM]

$10.99 CD
$13.99 LP+MP3

Different Every Time

Few artists are as deserving of an introductory collection as Robert Wyatt. His career -- characterized by idiosyncrasy and a refusal to acquiesce to the standards of pop -- is hard to sum up, or understand, quickly. Unlike so many artists today, you cannot simply hear one song and say, "Aha, that's what Robert Wyatt sounds like!" Then again...

Curated by Wyatt himself, in collaboration with Domino (who have been doing a lovely job reissuing his catalog of vinyl) and biographer Marcus O'Dair, this collection does a fine job at a difficult task -- know that Different Every Time compiles 30 songs and comes in at two-and-a-half hours! The first half, titled Ex Machina, plays the role of introduction. Beginning with his time as drummer and occasional vocalist in late-'60s Canterbury trippers Soft Machine, the 19-minute (!!!) "Moon in June" provides the chosen entry point. Hammond organ up front, jazzy chord formations, a monotone British singer, a certain sprawling, psychedelic romance ... Soft Machine often performed with Pink Floyd and comparisons with that group's early years are entirely apt. In fact, Soft Machine were Syd Barrett's un-credited band on The Madcap Laughs. If that provides both the necessary introduction to Wyatt, it also plays coda to Wyatt Phase 1.

If other peers went the route of indulgent "progressive" tropes, Wyatt, like his friends and collaborators Brian Eno and Kevin Ayers, chose a more "artistic" path. Matching Mole's "Signed Curtain" is a case in point. Refuting standard lyrical form, he sings "This is the first verse/And this is the chorus/Or perhaps it's a bridge/Or just another part/of the song that I'm singing." If it appears rather arch, or like a one-liner, in fact, it works like a charm. Ultimately, Wyatt proves himself a softie at the ending, concluding with the lines "It only means that I/lost faith in this song/'Cause it won't help me reach you..."

After falling from a fourth-floor window ledge in summer of 1973, Wyatt was confined to a wheelchair, and has been ever since. In a way, though Wyatt has employed other drummers, it seems to have created a signature sound that de-emphasizes low end in favor of mid/hi-end percussive sounds. They do say limitation is the mother of invention. Wyatt released the landmark Rock Bottom shortly thereafter and it still stands as perhaps his crowning album-length achievement. Here, it's represented by the lovely, and not obvious choice, "A Last Straw." It's a hypnotic piece of jazzy tones that could be snuck on during a listen of Miles Davis' early electric period. As the collection moves through the '70s and towards the '80s, his song forms get less overtly jazz-oriented though he's never abandoned those roots. He began an interest in synthesizers. His reworking of Chic's "At Last I Am Free" into a celestial, synth-laden ballad of existential proportions is one of the best things you're likely to hear. The gorgeous, Marxist "Age of Self" might be the closest thing to a pop single Wyatt's ever done. Including "Free Will & Testament" instead of "Heaps of Sheeps" (both from 1997's Shleep) was a curious choice but can hardly be faulted. "Just As You Are," from 2007's Comicopera, is just, well, perfect.

There's even more brilliance on the 17 collaborative tracks, and what a list of names! Epic Soundtracks, Hot Chip, Elvis Costello, Phil Manzanera... On "The Diver," Wyatt is joined by Anja Garbarek and together they create a style that could be called cosmic jazz of an intimate variety. "Shipbuilding," possibly the best-known song found here, was written (and later also recorded by) Elvis Costello. Its ubiquity hasn't dampened this tune about the Falklands War's power. "Frontera," from Phil Manzanera's Diamond Head, finds him singing in Spanish, which he did on occasion during his outspoken socialist period of the '70s. It's got the sheen and glitter of Eno-era Roxy Music for those who like a political discotheque. "La Plus Jolie Langue," sung in French with chanteuse Muriel Teodori, could be Cobra Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night-era Stereolab: a space-age rumination of Fender Rhodes and delay effects.

It seems that Wyatt's collaborations focused him in new ways, which might have something to do with when the bulk of these collabs happened -- mostly in the past 20 years. The sprawling, wandering quality that characterized his '70s work has been replaced with concise decisions. Although some of these collaborations do veer dangerously close, in production value, to contemporary jazz, it's still a testament to his fuck-all attitude in doing whatever he feels like. Are their notable songs omitted? Sure -- the glorious "O, Caroline" and "Heaps of Sheeps" both come to mind. Nonetheless, as something to whet the palette, Different Every Time succeeds through and through. On the whole then, it's the best kind of retrospective: a perfect introduction to the uninitiated that also opens new doors for the Wyatt devotee. A testament to a singular talent. [AGe]

$15.99 2CD
$34.99 2LP - Different Every Time: Ex Machina
$34.99 2LP - Different Every Time: Benign Dictatorships

Youth in Mourning
(Superior Viaduct)

The sticker on the shrink wrap says "Early Industrial," but don't let that descriptor sell Philip Johnson's very personal and original work short; now if we are talking about "industrial" as Throbbing Gristle used the word to name their label, before it was a genre with a rulebook in place, then sure. What we have here is one man, experimenting with primitive electronics, twisting them to fit his own personal voice. On his sole LP, released in 1982 after many tapes, Johnson is a proponent of less-is-more. Rather than relying on fancy gear, he uses an intuitive approach, which gives his work more character. Favoring tape-speed manipulation, a wide array of keyboard textures, and his expressive voice, Johnson carves out a personal space. The tape-slowed keys and clarinet of "It Meant Something Once" bring to mind the Shadow Ring, or some of the stranger entries in the Nurse with Wound/United Dairies universe. While many of these tracks feature muffled voices that seem more textural than literal, "C81," a rant worthy of favorable Mark E. Smith comparisons, is the centerpiece. Here, Johnson spits contempt for the NME, feeling that they neglected the real cassette culture of which he was a part. Were this LP instrumental, it would still be a fascinating document of early-'80s tape culture. Johnson's vocals tip the proceedings over the edge to make it one of the more enduring statements of the period. [NN]

$16.99 LP


Earlier this year, Brooklyn-based producer Lee Bannon released his sophomore album Alternate/Ending, ditching his hip-hop production style for a newfound love of the twisting and tumbling rhythms of jungle, and earning a sleeper hit. For his new EP he continues that exploration, crafting some of his best beats yet. Featuring Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, Hak from Ratking, and DJ Earl from Chicago's TEKLIFE footwork collective, Bannon brings the noise and deepens the funk. He moves effortlessly from tracks that recall Burial, A Guy Called Gerald, Aphex Twin, Zomby, and even vintage Orb. A standout heavy hitter is the Benante-assisted "RMF-3," in which his live drums are chopped and pitch shifted, coming in and out from under a deeply filtered web of synth stabs. Throughout the EP, Bannon takes some of his most beautifully brutal beats, angelic diva vocal samples, rich, deep, and dark synth washes, and barren street sound design into an expansive, yet brief, journey -- the whole thing lasts about thirty-five minutes. Adventurous, solid, accomplished, and banging, Bannon continues to blaze his own path through a once-forgotten trail, and he's finding some great moments along the way. [DG]

$10.99 CD

(Self-Released Cassette)

Russell Ellington Langston Butler is a Bermudian artist now based in Oakland, CA. As Black Jeans he's released an EP on Oakland label Tundra Dubs and a full-length LP on AMDiscs. Butler's influences range from classic techno to minimal synth to dirty house while retaining a cathartic emotional core throughout. Constructions is a new, limited cassette collection of tracks made in real-time with no overdubs. These are some raw techno workouts -- like a live set straight to your dome -- and a testament to Butler's ability to focus in on the transcendent nature of the genre. The sound should be familiar to fans of Hieroglyphic Being, Trilogy Tapes, Tuff Sherm, Drexciya and all lovers of raw, homespun electro-beatmaking. Side A has a dark focused energy with submerged 606 drum patterns intertwining with sub bass, synth and gurgled analogue noise. On the flip we're treated to even more alien soundscapes, with heady, almost Balearic keyboards ping-ponging against a thumping 4/4. A super solid batch of tunes, we're excited to see how this artist evolves! [RN]

$5.99 CS

(Spectrum Spools)

It should be clear by now that these are exciting times for ambient music. If you are in need of a proper introduction to the genre, the recent reissue of John Hassell and Brian Eno's 1980 collaboration Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics provides an excellent occasion. This record has always sounded way more fascinating than Eno's solo ambient outings, with Hassell injecting the otherwise pristine Eno universe with his signature compositional weirdness. Similarly expanding ambient's inherent sense of alien realignment, Neel's first solo full-length, Phobos, doesn't adhere to fourth world aesthetics but catapults the genre deep into science fiction territory. One half of the mind-bending Voices from the Lake duo, the Italian producer Giuseppe Tillieci is a wintered sound engineer. His elaborate knowledge of audio techniques, along with his impeccable sense of timing, makes this album a well thought-out, sensorially stimulating achievement.

Its premise is quite unusual. Phobos is the name of the moon that draws closer to Mars every year, a course of events that will ultimately lead to its violent destruction. Taking up this tension and building towards an undefined, distant climactic moment is what makes the record spellbinding throughout, with Neel's otherwise beatless, floating textures providing an absorbingly profound listening experience. This is by all means an intoxicating affair. With track titles such as "Crater Chain Observations," "The Gravity of Limtoc," and "The Secret Revealed," you know you have landed in mind-altering terrain, with the music unfolding like fractals in ever unexpected ways. Hyper dimensional, intergalactic, yet well controlled, one is led by Neel's adventurous vision in which the unexpected surges from every masterfully calculated twist and turn. [NVT]

$15.99 CD
$29.99 2LP

Next Life

It's safe to say that the UK loves Chicago footwork. Since Planet Mu's game-changing, two volume Bangs & Works compilations from 2010, the connection between the Windy City and London has deepened, widened, and shown a much-needed light onto a once insular scene. One of the producers to rise among the many new names was Rashad Harden, better known as DJ Rashad. Harden was one of those secret weapons that the underground incubates; a DJ in Chicago beginning in the late '90s, he witnessed and helped the evolution of ghetto house into footwork over the next decade. Rashad was a key component in the developing TEKLIFE collective, a group of forward-thinking, urban-minded, body moving DJs, producers, designers, and dancers. In 2013 he released his debut full-length, Double Cup, for the Hyperdub label, and then tragically, Harden died of a drug overdose this past spring. At 34, Harden was at the brink of something big, yet since his passing, his impact and influence has arguably grown larger and more widespread. Hyperdub has had a hand in helping the remaining members of this crew and family keep Rashad's name and influence alive, and here they offer a compilation dedicated to the bright producer.

Next Life features 20 tracks from many of Rashad's hometown crew, including Gant-man, Traxman, RP Boo, DJ Earl, DJ Taye, DJ Manny, Taso, and maybe his closet contemporary, DJ Spinn, whom he met in high school, yet also includes offerings from outside Chi-town, including producers DJ Paypal and Durban, as well as a few from Rashad. As an update of the sound and scene since the Bangs & Works comps, this is an excellent example of the various directions these double-time electronic concoctions can mutate towards. From the hardcore to the jazzy, the melodic to the agitated, footwork has slowly been working its way into pop culture, and likewise pop has begun to influence footwork in an engaging way. Where once the music was crudely about the dissection of pop, taking it into the heart of the cosmos that is the inner city, now the worldwide embrace of the rhythms has influenced the listenability of the music. Producers now move from just flipping, chopping, screwing samples, into using the framework to create more original and 'musical' tracks. It happens to every underground scene at some point, and not that Next Life is footwork gone pop, yet it perfectly showcases the various aspects of the sound and opens the conversation up to the question of what is next, now that a leading figure has moved on.

All the proceeds from this release will go to benefit Rashad's son, Chad. We've lost a lot of great musicians this year, from various parts of the industry, and this release is not only a reflection of a young artist in his prime, but a new primer for a still relatively young sound. [DG]

$15.99 CD

Way Out 80-84
(Tummy Touch)

"Arrington...part of the reason I helped generate over a billion dollars for the hip-hop industry. I was so inspired by his music...his rhythm, that pocket is unique. "Weak at the Knees" was one of the most complex, funky rhythms I ever heard in my life."  -DJ Quik

It's no understatement by any stretch of the imagination to say that modern R&B and hip-hop would have been a completely different beast if it were not for the understated, immense influence of this ordained minister of funk and his distinct brand of clean, dancefloor-friendly boogie stylings. You may not know his name but you've definitely heard Steve Arrington's grooves. The song he wrote while a member of Slave, 1979's "Just a Touch of Love," could arguably be the very first boogie-funk tune to hit the charts -- everyone from Kris Kross to Redman has sampled it; even Justin Timberlake's been known to cover it live. Many of Arrington's solo offerings provided the foundation for the West Coast's G-funk sound. Yet while it seemed like the sky was the limit, right as his star was climbing, Arrington found God, became a minster, and abruptly turned his back on his career for the next 30 years. This collection is a much-needed retrospective of his music and proof of his "magical touch," a testament to his everlasting influence.

The story of Steve Arrington begins in Dayton, Ohio. He came up as a teenager in a fertile music scene that gave us bands such as Zapp, Ohio Players, Heatwave, Lakeside, and the group he would eventually join, Slave. While gigging as a touring drummer with Pete & Sheila Escovedo (a/k/a Sheila E.), Arrington got a call from his buddies who were looking for a man to sit behind the kit, and within two years the then-23-year-old Arrington became a co-lead singer and penned their biggest hit, the aforementioned "Just a Touch of Love." His throaty, yearning tenor was one-quarter Stevie Wonder, one-quarter King Pleasure, and one-third Marvin Gaye, and funky as all get out. It sounded like nothing else at the time, but you hear his vocal influence in modern R&B singers like Keith Sweat, Justin Timberlake and even Nate Dogg. The heavy slap bass-driven, downtempo swing of "Just a Touch of Love" was the perfect antidote to the stale, dying orchestral disco sounds coming out during the same summer as Chic's "Good Times," and R&B hasn't been the same ever since.

In 1980, Arrington left Slave to form his own band, Hall of Fame, and most of this collection highlights the underrated yet highly popular grooves of that period. DJ Quik is right about "Weak at the Knees" -- it's a hiccupy, poly-rhythmic funk bomb that still murders any dancefloor, and it's been sampled to death for good reason. This record also features many tunes that ended up in the vaults after he became a minister, and they are all great. Arrington eventually made a surefooted return to creating modern funk gems again, recently collaborating with Snoop Dogg, Dam Funk, and Madlib, as well as releasing brand new music of his own and performing high-octane live shows as if he never left. Passing fans of modern R&B, classic disco, and/or true-school hip-hop who aren't familiar with the genius of Arrington should do themselves a favor and snatch this collection up, ASAP. Make sure that you've opened all of your windows upon initial listen though; it's gonna funk the place up, wherever you are. [DH]

$18.99 2CD
$18.99 LP

I Am the Cosmos

O, sweet sweet Chris Bell, divine Son of the South -- where you done gone?

Long before he got the acid-tinged holiness as a pilgrim roving the disintegration of the 1960s in search of Grace and plying the gospel plough even deeper within his troubled identity for succor, Chris Bell seemed to be fading before our eyes -- not unlike his fellow ethereal cult eminence from across the Pond, Nick Drake. Memphis scion of the well-to-do, the brash Beatlemaniac who reclaimed a stake in Dixie rock & roll at the dawn of the '70s as boldly as his distant Tennessean Mystery Brother Duane Allman, Bell sho'nuff appears in retrospect to have become consumptive from the proto-punk vapors which so reinvigorated and afforded an ever-after hard-edge sonic path for his Big Star creation mate Alex Chilton.

And yet delving into the vaults at the fabled Ardent (as shown in recent Big Star documentary Nothing Can Hurt Me), stems of Chris Bell's solo production efforts carefully crafted over myriad late nights at the studio alongside other takes of his well-known tracks from #1 Record so lovingly unfurled by the esteemed John Fry, the picture resolves of not just a mythic, gossamer haint of the Lost Cause but equally a guitar-armed Huckleberry Finn down by the muddy riverside, a volt-dealer of his era's Tripwave. Bell the young seeker lifted up after a Fall by agape love -- if not that of the flesh -- and what all had once lured him "In the Street" retains this rebel seed on his final masterpiece I Am the Cosmos, one of those kings of long-players that worries yer mind decades on: "What if...?" You can hear it as plain as day on "Get Away," "I Got Kinda Lost," and on his pre-Big Star outfit Icewater's "Looking Forward" possessing such dark, metallic, true grit as to appear a long lost Crazy Horse mini-epic.

And then there's the heartrending counterpoint of Bell's hounded voice, sometimes desperate cries against the album's persistent hazy, slightly dreamlike feel. Listening to "Look Up" and the immortal title hymn itself (in all its glorious interlocking versions), there's just sump sump so keen in revolutionizing sacred sound therein -- even in that heady season of the Jesus Freaks, and religious songwriters from both the black hand-side and white churches fusing holy roller with psych-rock and Funk. Such that one wishes Brother Bell had survived on to somehow cross the aisle to compose worlds with who should've been his long lost choral partner, Donny Hathaway (sadly also beset by crippling depression, identity, and narcotic issues), and pioneer further to stave off much of Praise-and-Worship before it reared its ugly head. But, alas, Shadowlands. [KCH]

$27.99 2CD

Live in Australia 1981
(Sublime Frequencies)

I'll be upfront in admitting that Sublime Frequencies' retrospective overview of the studio work by Egyptian master guitarist Omar Khorshid is my unequivocal favorite release by the label, so I was ecstatic to learn that they were behind the first official live release of what would be Khorshid's last performances before his untimely death in 1981. Live in Australia is a stunning, raw document of a master musician still in his prime, bringing Western rock'n'roll energy to Middle Eastern melodies and traditions. His dexterous ability, sensuous tone, and ingenious arrangements have made Khorshid one of the Arab world's most influential and highly respected guitar players, and hearing him in a live setting is a special treat. His music blurs lines between raw early rock'n'roll adrenaline, gyrating polyrhythmic pulchritude, and an otherworldly postmodern hybridization.

While this album isn't perhaps the best introduction to his work (that'd be the 2CD set, Guitar El Chark, sadly out of print on vinyl), this live document is a chance to hear a guitar master as highly canonized as Jimi Hendrix, Dick Dale, or Django Reinhardt in the raw, with unpolished yet clear sound quality and informative liner notes completing this hugely important package. If you dig a spoonful or two of eclectic multiculturalization with your electric guitar freakouts, you'd be wise to scoop up this gem ASAP. [IQ]

$24.99 LP

also available

Black Fire! New Spirits!
(Soul Jazz)

Though this is fairly standard fare for the always-excellent Soul Jazz label, this new set really digs into the deep spiritual jazz scene in the US of the 1960s and '70s. The collection features well-known and groundbreaking artists such as Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, the Last Poets, and Yusef Lateef as well as many rare tracks from lesser known artists such as Creative Artists Ensemble, Grachan Moncur, Lloyd McNeill, Tyrone Washington, and others.

$22.99 2CD

New Orleans Soul
(Soul Jazz)

After numerous collections of New Orleans funk, the Soul Jazz label flips the coin and brings us this stellar set of Crescent City soul music. With Allen Toussaint as the spiritual father and constant behind-the-scenes hit maker, this comp has amazing soul, be it swampy, buttoned-up or all-out funky, from Aaron Neville, Willie Tee, Irma Thomas, Robert Parker, Betty Harris, Maurice Williams, Eldridge Holmes, Eddie Bo, Lionel Robinson, Ernie K-Doe, and many more greats!

$22.99 CD
$29.99 2LP

Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014

With four discs, 77 tracks, and a ton of ephemera and thoughtful writing, this set of obscurities from the first 20 years of Wilco is an overflowing bounty for the fans. In one way or another we're pretty sure that all of the demos, outtakes, live cuts, comp tracks and unreleased studio gems in this box have technically been "available" before, from flexi-discs to compilations to free downloads, but this is a great way to have all this music in one place, and fans will not be surprised when we say this thing is overflowing with great music!

$39.99 4CD BOX

What's Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994-2014

Wilco is an album band, but 20 years on they have so much great music out there, so it will come as no surprise that this 20-track hits collection is solid gold front to back. There is nothing here that the longtime fan needs, and we can debate all day what the best introduction to Wilco is, but What's Your 20? is a great listen and a surprisingly nuanced overview of this long-running and complex group.

$19.99 2CD

Issue #370 December 2014

"From funk to fire music, punk to psychedelia, noise to improv, Wire writers apply their minds to the subject of freedom in music with contributions from David Keenan, Abi Bliss, Nina Power, Andy Hamilton, Robert Barry, Jack Law, Derek Walmsley and more. Plus: Invisible Jukebox: Peter Zummo The NY trombonist approaches The Wire's mystery record selection with all valves open); Cross Platform: Ursula Mayer (The Austrian artist blends gender and meaning in her lust films); Global Ear: Ainu Music in Hokkaido; Unofficial Channels: The Combat Jack Podcast; Bites: Laura Cannell."

$10.00 MG

back in stock

Claude Lombard

While primarily known in Europe for a number of Eurovision Song Contest entries, a series of children's albums made throughout the 1970s, and a large body of work as a voiceover artist for animated films, the 1969 debut album by Belgian singer Claude Lombard is another matter entirely. She cut this record with a small beat jazz combo, released it in Belgium and France in miniscule editions, and took a sharp left turn into an entirely different career path.

That's a tragic shame, because Lombard's debut is an absolutely gorgeous, startling document of melancholic chanson psychedelia that staggeringly foreshadows the eerie, incorporeal sci-fi pop of Stereolab and, more specifically, early Broadcast by about 30 years -- in fact, about half of the album honestly sounds like some alternate universe where Françoise Hardy is singing the songs on Haha Sound or The Noise Made by People. The instrumentation throughout is primarily guitar, bass, piano and organ, and some of the most beautifully intricate drumming I've ever heard on record, but the secret weapon here is the copious usage throughout of the ondes martenot, an early electronic instrument similar in sonic tone to the theremin, used predominantly at the time in classical music (Olivier Messiaen was one of the instrument's biggest champions), and in recent years used heavily by the likes of Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood. The instrument adds a haunted, occultish spectrality to these already beautiful songs, and the results are simply breathtaking; "Sleep Well" in particular sounds like a French-language ancestor to Broadcast's "Echo's Answer," while the oscillations and skittering polyrhythms of "L'Usine" recall contemporaneous work made by the Silver Apples, and the type of jazz-meets-science lullabies that made Broadcast's Haha Sounds such a powerful record.

I'll be honest in admitting that I have an unshakable love for this album; my original Belgian pressing of this LP is one of my desert island, grab-it-in-a-fire records, and originals -- if you can find one -- will set you back triple-digit sums. It's a minor blessing then to have this reissue at a steal of a price, though it should be noted for historical buffs that the cover art has been changed and the album has been slightly re-sequenced. All the same, those of you who love vintage French pop, the kitchen-sink bedsit sci-fi of Broadcast, or ladies of vintage psychedelia are persuaded to grab this immediately. It's a truly special album, seemingly one of a kind, at times warmly familiar yet startlingly fresh. Absolute highest recommendation, folks. [IQ]

$13.99 LP

Continuum Unbound
(Gravity Wave)

American composer Michael Pisaro is perhaps best known to enthusiasts of contemporary composition as a member of the Wandelweiser collective, an international group of composers who share the common bond of exploring and integrating the sounds of silence into their works. Their music is of a different sort of minimalism than the more rhythmic styles more commonly associated with that term, and Pisaro's newest work -- a three-CD box set entitled Continuum Unbound -- is a breathtaking document attempting to capture, dissect, and then organize and score minute moments of sound in its most "natural" state. Each disc in the set is comprised of a single, 72-minute piece of sound architecture, with each successive work a simultaneous deconstruction and evolution on the elements of the previous. The combined elements of Continuum Unbound, made in collaboration with instrumentalists Greg Stuart, Patrick Farmer, Joe Panzner, and Toshiya Tsunoda, serve as a beautiful ensemble reinterpretation and deconstruction of the sort of subtle compositional acousmatic works pioneered by composer Luc Ferrari, in which a naturally occurring environmental event is theatrically recreated in the sound world via a combination of documentary recordings, instrumental performances, and studio processing.

Disc One, entitled Kingsnake Grey, is a field recording of the sounds of Congaree National Park in South Carolina begun 12 minutes before sundown on New Year's Eve 2012. It is left (to the best of the listener's knowledge) untreated and entirely "natural," with no additional electronic or acoustic instrumental tones or percussive points and counterpoints added to the recording, with the listener encouraged to focus their emphasis upon the transition and shift from clouds of birdsong toward a fog of insect chatter. It is that very natural sonic "fog" which Pisaro then emphasizes and attempts to somehow recreate acousmatically over the course of the next two discs.

Disc Two, titled Congaree Nomads, draws upon not treated excerpts of CD-1's 72-minute obelisk, but rather from 24 unused three-minute segments of recordings from the same sonic document, strung together and arranged in sequence "geographically" from north to south, aurally touring Pisaro and percussionist Greg Stuart's journey through Congaree Park. As the piece progresses, Stuart adds and responds to the natural "fog" of the field recordings with a stunning array of bowed percussion treatments on marimba, glockenspiel, vibraphone, and crotales (small, tuned 4-inch bronze and brass discs). The density of Stuart's multi-tracked instrumental counterpoint gradually overtakes the natural fog of the Congaree recording, as his contributions increase from one track at the piece's start to a subtle-yet-massive 48 tracks by the end. The results sound eerily like an otherworldly organ being sustained in the middle of the swampy forest, which quickly fades at the close, leaving the birds and insects having final say.

Disc Three, Anabasis, is the most "complex" part of the trilogy, comprised of a near-wholly in-studio instrumental dramatic reenactment/reinterpretation of the Congaree environment, if you will. Pisaro assembles an ensemble of Greg Stuart ("gravity percussion with sand"), Patrick Farmer (field recordings, hydrophone), Pisaro (electric guitar, piano, sine tones, studio and field recordings), Joe Panzner (electronics) and Toshiya Tsunoda (sand, copper foil, polyethylene sheet, fan, sine tones, hydrophone), who via a score by Pisaro, collectively recreate a stunning instrumental interpretation of the same levels of "busy calm" that the two previous discs exhibit in more "naturally ambient" settings. Anabasis is like a radio play of sorts, its drama both entirely natural and completely staged, its participants in full control of the seemingly natural chaos created. What is most shocking about its genesis, however, is that each member of the ensemble (save for Pisaro, of course) has no knowledge of the others' contributions, as each contributed their parts remotely, adding to the chaotic and elemental nature of these sounds combining to coalesce into a force that transcends their respective parts. I say without hyperbole that Pisaro has managed to craft one of the most truly moving and beautiful pieces of modern sonics that I've heard in ages, paying tribute to past craftsmen of acousmatic composition while simultaneously pushing his own vision forward.

Fans of the INA-GRM composers school, the works of the Lovely Music/Robert Ashley realm of intricate ambient music, and the likes of contemporary craftsmen like Jason Lescalleet, Greg Kelley, Kevin Drumm, etc. are most highly recommended to grip this stunning work post-haste, as it is one of 2014's most ambitious, satisfying, and noteworthy experimental releases. I am simply blown away. [IQ]

$54.99 3CD

back in print

Hired Hand OST
(Scissor Tail Editions)

Vinyl edition back in print at a new lower price. The review below originally ran in 2005, when we first featured the CD issue of this gorgeous soundtrack by Bruce Langhorne.

I guess it was about a year ago that I headed up to Cinema Village (or was it the Quad?) one evening after work to catch the world premiere re-release of Peter Fonda's 1971 subversive western The Hired Hand. This was his follow up to the monumentally successful Easy Rider, and in an attempt to bring the hysteria around him down a notch Fonda embarked on a much more reflective filmmaking endeavor. His western upends most of the conventions of the genre, with vaguely homoerotic themes, a stately pace, fragmented or anti-climatic violence, and elegiac passages of psychedelic montage that were inspired by his days of hanging out with the experimental filmmakers Bruce Baillie and Bruce Conner.

The movie tanked when it was released, but Fonda seemed unperturbed as he fielded questions after the viewing. Tall and preternaturally tan, he recounted showing the film to his famous western film star father Henry Fonda, who responded deadpan, "That's my kinda western." The Hired Hand really was ahead of its time, and in the year since I first saw it, those psychedelic interludes have been seared in my mind, as has the stunning score by Bruce Langhorne.

The next morning I searched high and low for a copy of the soundtrack only to discover that it didn't even exist on CD or LP. In one of those moments of inspiration that never come to fruition, I convinced myself that I was going to devote myself to getting it released. Thankfully, someone with a little more conviction and follow-through than I was able to get it out.

Langhorne was a session musician par excellence who appeared on countless folk-rock records in the '60s. Bob Dylan has written that Langhorne was the inspiration for "Mr. Tambourine Man," and he figures prominently on Bringing It All Back Home as well as the soundtrack to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, with which the earlier Hired Hand has a little in common stylistically. During the showing I remember thinking that the music reminded me of a more blissful, psychedelic, and spaced-out John Fahey or Sandy Bull; later I came to find out that Langhorne actually borrowed Bull's Twin Reverb amp to produce all those ringing pastoral overtones.

With a battery of Farfisas, recorders, and ancient Martin guitars, the passages on this disc seem to defy time, suspending the clock on the CD player with each graceful, echoed parsing of a banjo note or dulcimer slide. Langhorne's 23-minute score is a gorgeous accomplishment that is more than able to stand outside the framework of Fonda's film and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to fans of Americana, psychedelia, finger-pick guitarists, spaghetti western soundtracks, Bjorn Olsson enthusiasts, or perhaps people just looking to find some music that'll help them slow down and clear their heads a little bit. [MK]

$21.99 LP

now on vinyl

(Dark Entries)

At first glance, the combined winding histories and music of disco and Hi-NRG pioneer Patrick Cowley and Jorge Socarras seem to mirror that of their contemporary, Arthur Russell. Cowley grew up in Buffalo, NY and moved to the free-spirited San Francisco where he befriended Socarras (the future vocalist of Indoor Life), also from New York -- both men students of visual art and electronic music composition, and gay. The two began this studio collaboration as Catholic in the mid '70s, recording an album's worth of tracks that shared elements with the likes of Suicide, Gary Numan and Brian Eno, and predated the minimal electro-rock/new wave sounds of Anne Clark, Depeche Mode and Yaz. Even with guest spots from a few players in Sylvester's group, it was a far cry from the synth-heavy disco productions that Cowley was becoming known for -- he soon joined Sylvester's studio band and went on to have a hand in many dance hits -- and would be turned down by his then label, Megatone. The Catholic tapes would sit in a San Fran basement for 30 years, never fully seeing the light of day until recently.

It's a shame, as this is some of the best gay avant-rock that I've ever heard. Similar to Arthur Russell, Socarras' emotional vocal delivery and lyrics reflect the sexually charged world of the late-'70s, but replace Russell's tender moments with something more aggressive, biting and agitated. Tracks like "Burn Brighter Flame," a cover of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "You Laugh at My Face" -- which tells a story of ridicule, longing and unreturned desire -- are carried by pulsing analog synthesizers, sparse drum machines and the occasional guitar. There are also a few moments that are a little more punk-influenced -- songs like "I Never Want to Fall in Love" and "Cars Collide," that latter reminding me of Adam Ant's "Car Trouble." And there's also a pointed quirkiness to some of the lyrics; my favorite track, "Robot Children," contains verses like: "You say that you love women, you say that you love men, you like to think, that us is just like them" and "you once were into disco, but now you're into rock, you lived in San Francisco, but now you're in New York."

Cowley died early in the 1980s at the dawn of the AIDS era, further cementing his status as the brilliant and tragic outsider. It goes without saying that it's truly a shame that so much queer talent has been lost through the years, but in this age of the reissue, it's beautiful at least to have the chance discover the more personal and creative side of many forgotten artists who were under-appreciated, misunderstood or virtually unnoticed during their lifetimes, finding their place behind the scenes or behind the boards in helping other artists reach the masses. The Catholic album is yet another example of a great lost piece of work that was not understood at the time, but to a new generation of listeners it plays like a blueprint for the post-punk, no wave, new wave, and art-rock genres that would develop in the years to follow. [IQ]

$27.99 2LP

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